“The ranks of the hungry continue to grow every day,” says Marj Montgomery, community and family services co-ordinator for The Salvation Army in Summerside, P.E.I. “It’s sad, it’s disturbing and there is little sign of an end in sight.”
Canada’s recent recession left thousands of people without hope. Many who faced challenges and difficulties still live on shaky ground. The Salvation Army’s Summerside soup kitchen is one of many services offered by The Salvation Army across the country that continue to report significant increases in the numbers of people coming for help.
“It’s heartbreaking to see families surviving on very little,” continues Marj. “We are seeing a lot of new faces—homeless, single parents, working poor, families living on minimum wage and seniors on fixed incomes. It comes down to food versus rent, food versus heat, and food versus medicine.”
The soup kitchen, a former restaurant, has served area residents since 2002. Open five days a week, the facility provides a hot meal, dessert and drinks to more than 1,200 hungry people each month. Sixty percent of the clientele are between the ages of 19 and 35. It is completely operated by a staff of 50 volunteers who cook, serve the food, set up tables and clean up. “Our volunteers are vital to the success of the kitchen,” says Marj.
The kitchen is also more than a bowl of soup or a dish of macaroni and cheese. It is a close family unit where clients have access to pastoral care, The Salvation Army thrift store and food bank. It is a place where those who hurt find hope. It is a hand up rather than a hand out.
Recently The Salvation Army helped an elderly man who is an alcoholic and regular visitor to the kitchen. When he became unable to care for his personal needs, staff and clients from the kitchen made arrangements for him to be taken to the local hospital for treatment.
The Salvation Army’s promise “Giving Hope Today” is more than just a saying. It’s a promise that draws 1.5 million Canadians to The Salvation Army for help every year…and it’s what keeps them coming back every day.